According to Oakton baseball head coach Scott Rowland, senior starting pitcher Bart Reese was "probably a pitch or two away from coming out in the fifth [inning]" of Monday’s Northern Region quarterfinal game against Stone Bridge. Reese completed the fifth – striking out the Stone Bridge shortstop Mike Stancik. When he reached the dugout, Reese began lobbying for another inning.
"He said that he had one more in the fifth. He said that he had one more going into the seventh," said Rowland.
Rowland finally pulled Reese with one out to go in the seventh inning, opting to let senior Brett Williams get the final out. As he walked off the field, the Cougar starter was met with a standing ovation by the Oakton faithful.
"It is tough as a pitcher because you want to battle and close it out, but we have two other great pitchers on this team and I understand it," said Reese after the Cougars’ 7-3 win over the Bulldogs at South County High School. "I knew that my boy Brett would close it out. It was a good feeling."
Reese finished the day going 6 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on five hits and striking out five, helping the Cougars to advance to their eighth Northern Region Final Four in nine years.
"I am proud of the my guys," said Rowland of the Cougars’ string of success in the Northern Region tournament. "That is hard to do."
<b>AFTER THE COUGARS</b> jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the top of the second innings, Stone Bridge responded in the bottom of the second with a one-out solo home run by Tyler Basso, followed by singles off the bats of Collin Pearson and J.J. White to take a 2-1 lead. With a big inning looming for the Bulldogs, Reese refocused, striking out Matt Irwin and getting leadoff batter Brian Wheaton to pop out to first.
"After the second inning, I just had to focus," said Reese, who didn’t allow another Bulldog hit until the seventh inning. "I just felt it. It felt right after that. I just had to cruise and stay in that same mentality."
Stone Bridge starter Tyler Weaver was not so lucky. Taking advantage of three Bulldog errors and timely hitting, the Cougars regained the lead in the top of the third innings and bolstered it with runs in the fourth and sixth and two in the seventh.
Besides a solo home run by Adam Henne in the fourth and a double by Kevin Wager in the seventh, the Cougars lived off of singles, solid base running and key sacrifices to plate their runners.
"We haven’t been swinging it great lately. I was just trying to do whatever we could to get a win," said Rowland.
The Cougars finished with seven hits on the day, but saw 14 batters reach base.
"The bottom line is somebody has to step up and get that big hit and they did," said Stone Bridge head coach Sam Plank.
The Cougars advance to play Lake Braddock on Wednesday night, a rematch of the 2006 Northern Region final that the Bruins won. The Bruins are currently enjoying a 17-game winning streak.
"They are definitely the hottest team and the best team in the tournament right now, no question. There is really not a weakness there," said Rowland of Lake Braddock, who advanced to the third round of the tournament by beating Westfield, 20-8. "The good thing is, if you get to that game, you have a chance."